The city’s family physician shortage could be history by the new year, says Dr. Deepa Takhar.
“I can almost say, hand on heart, there will be no more doctor shortage,” said the founder of a new, $6 million clinic opening July 15 at 1150 Franklin Blvd.
Three doctors are signed up to take patients when the doors open and 4,000 of the 6,000 new patient spots are filled.
Dr. Takhar has another three doctors signed up to move in by November, taking on at least another 4,000 new patients. And next year, she’s in talks with another four doctors interested in moving to Cambridge — which could take at least 8,000 patients.
Along with matching patients with doctors, Takhar’s new clinic will open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends for walk-in patients, no matter if they have a doctor in town or not. That should take pressure off Cambridge Memorial Hospital’s sometimes overwhelmed emergency department.
For years, the city’s doctor recruitment committee has estimated 15,000 to 25,000 people in Cambridge didn’t have family doctor. Takhar’s new clinic will take in at least 18,000 new patients from across Cambridge — and Kitchener — because it has easy Highway 401 access.
“I know we have a (doctor) shortage. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as has been talked about,” Takhar said.
When the 20,000 square foot industrial building is fully converted to medical uses, she said it will have 11 doctors — nine of them new to Cambridge.
Cambridge’s doctor recruitment committee has been doing a good job, Takhar said. As her clinic takes patients, it gives recruiters a chance to plan for replacement of retiring doctors instead trying to get enough doctors matched with patients first, she said.
Although happy family physicians are coming to town, city doctor recruiter Donna Gravelle isn’t convinced Cambridge’s physician shortage will end any time soon.
“I don’t know if we will ever eliminate it. There are people always moving in,” she said.
And many of the patients joining Takhar’s growing clinic are coming from Kitchener-Waterloo, not Cambridge, Gravelle said.
At least three Cambridge doctors plan to retire next year, she said. Surveys are out to all the city’s 78 current doctors asking about their retirement plans.
Gravelle is also working to find two full-time doctors for another clinic in town that wants to expand. Three others are taking paternity leaves, so short-term “locum” doctors need to be found in the next year, too.
Cambridge lost its provincial “medically underserviced” designation last year. That means doctors coming to the city don’t get financial incentives any more, as they still get in northern and rural areas. That’s lead to a “slight drop” in prospective doctors touring the city so far this year, Gravelle said.
Takhar came to Cambridge from Saskatchewan in 2004. She took over a practice in Preston, then moved into a new clinic at Conestoga Boulevard and Can-Amera Parkway and found three doctors to join her.
She’s moving to the new Franklin clinic, leaving three doctors to work at the Conestoga site and giving room for her adjacent cosmetic clinic to expand.
In Moose Jaw, Sask., Takhar said she had the job of recruiting doctors for that city. She talked of success, but some doctors she spoke with didn’t want to move to the Prairies. Takhar kept in touch with them over the years. Now it’s an easy job selling them on a move to a big, new clinic in Cambridge, close by Toronto.
“If people will go to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, how difficult can it be to attract them to Cambridge?” she said.
One of the family doctors coming to Cambridge next month are originally from Saskatchewan, Dr. Jodie Calvert Wang.
Along with family doctors, Takhar’s new mega-clinic will have a pharmacy and physiotherapy services. Talks are underway with an X-ray service and medical laboratory to move in.
To register for a doctor at the new clinic, call 519-620-7044.